Apprenticeships in Scotland

Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
December, 2021

Discover how an apprenticeship in Scotland can provide the work-based learning you need to forge a successful career

Apprenticeships provide young people with the opportunity to study towards a nationally-recognised qualification while gaining hands-on experience of the industry through on-the-job training.

In Scotland, there are three types of apprenticeship:

  • Foundation - equip secondary school pupils with workplace experience while completing their National 5s and Highers.
  • Modern - aimed at people aged 16 and over.
  • Graduate - allows apprentices to take their studies up to Masters level.

See the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) for an idea of how Scottish apprenticeship qualifications compare with other Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs).

You can view all the Scottish apprenticeship subjects available at APPRENTICESHIPS.SCOT - Types of apprenticeships.

Foundation apprenticeships

Aimed at those still at school, you'll study for a foundation apprenticeship (FA) alongside your National 5s and Highers (equivalent to GCSEs and AS-levels), meaning you leave school with a well-rounded and valuable skillset. Taken over two years, typically beginning in S5, pupils take time out from the classroom to gain workplace experience and make progress towards an SCQF-recognised qualification.

FAs are offered in the following 15 subjects:

  • accountancy
  • automotive
  • business skills
  • civil engineering
  • construction
  • creative and digital media
  • engineering
  • financial services
  • food and drink technologies
  • hospitality
  • IT -hardware and system support
  • IT - software development
  • scientific technologies
  • social services and healthcare
  • social services - children and young people.

Some of Scotland's largest employers offer FAs, such as Network Rail and the NHS.

On completion of an FA, students are well placed to advance to the next stage of their career - whether that's enrolling onto an MA, heading straight into the world of work or applying for further education. Several Scottish universities, including Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Glasgow, currently accept FAs as an entry requirement onto some courses.

Modern apprenticeships

With a Skills Development Scotland (SDS) survey showing that 92% of candidates remain in work six months after becoming qualified, and as many as 37,000 young people already on the pathway, it's clear to see that Modern apprenticeships (MAs) have had an overwhelmingly positive impact on Scotland's workforce.

These apprenticeships are a viable alternative to university, providing the option for candidates to gain hands-on experience while earning a wage and studying towards an industry-relevant qualification. Indeed, 96% of Scottish employers say those with a modern apprenticeship are more able to do their job.

There are over a hundred MAs available across a range of sectors, including:

  • accounting
  • agriculture
  • automotive
  • business administration
  • construction
  • digital marketing
  • finance
  • healthcare
  • IT
  • retail.

You're eligible to start an MA once you've reached the Scottish statutory minimum school leaving age, which for the majority is 16. The specific qualifications needed will vary depending on your employer and apprenticeship, although most ask for three or more National 4s (or Standard Grades at general level, if you obtained your qualifications before the switch in 2014). If you have further qualifications or skills in a specialist field, you may be able to begin at a higher level.

On an MA, you'll be paid for the work you're doing towards becoming qualified. MA candidates can expect to receive the apprentice wage, which as of April 2022 is:

  • £4.81 per hour if you're under 19, and/or in the first year of your MA.
  • £6.83 per hour as you advance into second year if you're aged 18-20, £9.18 per hour if you fall into the 21-22 age bracket or the National Living Wage of £9.50 if you're 23 and over.

Visit APPRENTICESHIPS.SCOT - Modern apprenticeships to discover the range of MAs currently available, and begin your search at SDS - Find and apply for a vacancy.

Graduate apprenticeships

Graduate apprenticeships (GAs) are the more advanced branch of the Scottish apprenticeship family, offering work-based learning and study up to Masters level.

Employers and higher education institutions collaborate to shape GAs around the needs of the industry. Because of this, you can be sure that everything you'll learn and practice while becoming qualified is directly relevant to boosting your career prospects.

There are 12 types of GA in a variety of subjects including accounting, cyber security and data science. Read more about these at APPRENTICESHIPS.SCOT - Graduate apprenticeships.

As a GA candidate, you'll be considered an employee of the company you're working for, spending on average one day a week at university or college. You won't be eligible for government funding from the Students Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS), but your course fees will be paid by your employer and you'll receive a monthly wage in line with the national apprentice wage (see above).

To be eligible you'll need to prove that:

  • you're a resident of Scotland
  • the premises you work in are located in Scotland
  • you have the right to live and work in Scotland
  • you're over the age of 16, although some workplaces may impose a minimum age of 18 due to health and safety regulations.

There's no upper age limit for enrolling on a GA. You'll still be eligible if you already have a degree, or if you're already in employment - talk to your employer about the opportunities available to you.

Find the latest GLA vacancies.

Find out more

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